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The 2010 US Census is here (Read 4391 times)
Dan Goodell
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The 2010 US Census is here
Mar 16th, 2010 at 11:32pm
 
Here in the US, it's time for the decennial US Census, wherein the government attempts to tally each and every person living in the nation.

I just received my census form in the mail. On the surface, it seems like it ought to be simple enough -- just answer seven questions about each person.  I'm somewhat bemused, however, how the government can't even put together a simple, less ambiguous form for an undertaking of this massive scale.

The form makes a big deal about counting only people who are physically in my house on April 1.  Yet elsewhere it states, "Please complete and mail back the enclosed census form today."  Uh, it's not April 1 yet . . . so what to do?

Question 1: "How many people were living or staying in this house, apartment, or mobile home on April 1, 2010?"

Question 2: "Were there any additional people staying here April 1, 2010 that you did not include in Question 1?"

(Two questions in, and my forms-challenged wife has already given up.  "Here. You do it."  She shakes her head and hands the form off to me.)

Question: "(Are you) of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin?"  . . . followed by yes/no checkboxes.

Question: "What is (your) race?"  . . . followed by a bunch of checkboxes for an assortment of ethnicities -- a list which does not include "Hispanic", "Latino", or "Spanish".

"Please answer both questions . . . For this census, Hispanic origins are not races."

Okay, now they've just confused a whole lot of people.

Granted, those of us who can handle Symantec Ghost can probably handle this form without a lot of distress, but there are a lot of people who are going to struggle with this form.

I expect a major segment of the population will be befuddled.  "I always thought I was Hispanic, so if that's not a race, what race am I?"

I can envision many people pondering, "What, exactly, does 'origin' mean?"  (I'm not Hispanic, so fortunately I can simply answer "no" and not trouble myself further.)  Does it mean a person who was born in a Hispanic country?  What if it was a parent, or a great-grandparent, who was the emigre?  Does that still count as being your origin?  What if said great-grandparent married into a Caucasian/European bloodline and nobody else in the family tree is Hispanic?  . . . oh, right -- Hispanic is not a race.

Given the large Hispanic population in this country, I would have thought the Census Bureau would have seen fit to add a brief explanation or definition in the instructions.

Also, how about some guideline on how to define race (of which you are supposed to mark "one or more" checkboxes)?  In this world of increasingly mixed ethnicity, how much race counts as being of a certain race?  If you're only one-quarter Chinese, should you still mark the box labeled "Chinese"?  What if you're 1/32 American Indian?  Is that enough?  How about those white, southern rednecks whose DNA testing revealed they had a black ancestor back in the Jeffersonian era?  (Okay, we know they would never in a million years mark the box labeled "Black", but I'm just saying . . . )

When you're trying to put a third of a billion people into categories, a few simple guidelines could have gone a long way.

Maybe they didn't beta-test the form.


 
 
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NightOwl
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Re: The 2010 US Census is here
Reply #1 - Mar 17th, 2010 at 8:34am
 
@
Dan Goodell

I haven't seen the census form yet--but great post--been awhile since I had such a good chuckle!!!

And....the census folk hope to get an accurate *count*?!!!
 

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MrMagoo
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Re: The 2010 US Census is here
Reply #2 - Mar 17th, 2010 at 3:14pm
 
Dan Goodell wrote on Mar 16th, 2010 at 11:32pm:
"For this census, Hispanic origins are not races."

Then what does race mean?  Hispanic implies a place you came from, a culture, and a particular (albeit wide) genetic pool.  Seems like it should fit almost any definition of race.

Quote:
An ethnic group is a group of people whose members identify with each other, through a common heritage that is real or assumed- sharing cultural characteristics

That's from Wikipedia, but most of the definitions from around the web were similar, and Hispanic seems to fit it in my book.

Crazy government.  Who edits these things...?
 
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Re: The 2010 US Census is here
Reply #3 - Mar 21st, 2010 at 1:23am
 
We've had our form for a few days. No one's had the courage to open it yet.

What do you expect from the government?
 
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Pleonasm
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Re: The 2010 US Census is here
Reply #4 - Mar 23rd, 2010 at 10:03am
 
Did you also notice that the Census 2010 form asks for your (1) birth date and for your (2) age in years?  One would think that the government would be able to compute your age, given your birth date -- right?  What could possibly be the logic of asking for both pieces of information?

Huh
 

ple • o • nasm n. “The use of more words than are required to express an idea”
 
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Dan Goodell
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Re: The 2010 US Census is here
Reply #5 - Mar 26th, 2010 at 12:34am
 
Pleonasm wrote on Mar 23rd, 2010 at 10:03am:
Did you also notice that the Census 2010 form asks for your (1) birth date and for your (2) age in years?

Well, at least those are questions we can easily answer.  What bothers me are the questions we can't figure out how to answer--the ones we could answer if we had just a little guidance, clarification, or context.

Maybe the pair of questions is a sort of redundancy check--kind of like the practice of having to enter your password twice on computers to change it.  There will probably be a lot of forms on which the birthdate is unclear due to poor handwriting.  ...is that a 1 or a 7?  ...a 6 or a 0?  Having a built-in cross-check, already answered, may save time if it avoids having to make some follow-up contacts.

 
 
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Re: The 2010 US Census is here
Reply #6 - Mar 28th, 2010 at 11:57am
 
Mailed ours out yesterday.
 
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